A year-old University of Pittsburgh startup company has raised $5 million in Series A funding as it develops an antidote for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Tus Science & Technology Service Group of China led the funding round for Globin Solutions Inc. with participation from UPMC Enterprises, the commercialization arm of the Downtown-based hospital and health insurance giant.
The technology that created the antidote administered intravenously was licensed from Pitt and the funding will support pre-clinical development of the new medicine, said Jason Rose, Globin CEO and assistant professor of medicine at Pitt’s School of Medicine.
“There’s clearly a need for something better for carbon monoxide poisoning,” Dr. Rose said.
The money will be used to continue safety testing of the compound, which will eventually be needed for clinical trials.
Carbon monoxide, a byproduct of combustion, is called the silent killer. It is an odorless, colorless gas that’s highly lethal. An estimated 50,000 emergency department visits annually are caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, according to Dr. Rose, and as many as 2,000 deaths are blamed on the problem annually.
Medical costs associated with carbon monoxide poisoning exceed $1.3 billion annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a government agency based in Atlanta.
Pressurized oxygen administered in a hyperbaric chamber, a full body-size capsule, is the standard care. Not all of the devices are available for emergency use, which can delay treatment.
Moreover, some researchers have questioned the efficacy of hyperbaric treatment for such poisonings.
Carbon monoxide owes its lethality to its strong chemical bond to hemoglobin, which carries oxygen through the blood. Globin Solution’s breakthrough is a scavenger molecule that strips the poison from the hemoglobin, freeing it to bond again with oxygen molecules to nourish tissue.
Anthony Pizon, chief of the toxicology division in Pitt’s Department of Emergency Medicine, said the science behind Globin is valid. He has no financial ties to the company.
“It is a little novel, but it’s sound science,” Dr. Pizon said. “At first glance, it looks like a promising treatment.”
One advantage of the antidote over hyperbaric treatment: speed of administration, which one day may be given outside a hospital. One possibility is for the antidote to be infused intravenously at the scene of a poisoning, which often happens in the home, or in an ambulance en route to a hospital.
Oakland-based Globin has three employees in addition to Dr. Rose: Jesus Tejero Bravo, chief scientific officer; Mark Gladwin, chairman of the board; and CFO Xueli Wang. Mr. Bravo is an assistant professor of medicine at Pitt, Dr. Gladwin is chair of the Department of Medicine at Pitt; and Mr. Wang is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s MBA program.
The antidote has worked well in mice, resulting in improved clearance of carbon monoxide from the bloodstream, Dr. Rose said.
Clinical trials are more than a year off and commercialization, which will require Food and Drug Administration approval, is about five years away.